6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Avoid Common Car Buying Mistakes
(ABC 6 News) – Buying a new or used car is a major purchase, often costing tens of thousands of dollars, and navigating the sales process can be tricky and frustrating.
Have you ever left a car dealership with the promise of a great deal only to realize that a smooth-talking car salesman took you for a ride? Those days could be coming to an end thanks to new guidelines being proposed by the Federal Trade Commission.
“The FTC received more than 100 thousand complaints each year over the last three years about shady dealership practices, and now they’re trying to put into place some protections to keep them from happening to consumers,” says Keith Barry, Consumer Reports Auto Expert.
Some of the practices the FTC would ban? Not disclosing the full price of a car to any consumer who asks.
“Until then, you’re going to want to get as much information in writing from the dealer as possible. Ask for an itemized, out-the-door price,” advises Barry.
Including add-ons that have already been installed on that car that is apparently the last one in stock. Sound familiar?
“Under those new rules you wouldn’t have to pay for those extras, but in the meantime, you’re going to want to negotiate to get them taken off,” says Barry.
And did you know that half a dealer’s profit —about $1,200 for new cars, and about a third of the profits or $900 for used—comes from extra financing, leasing, and services fees?
“At the end of the whole process check the paperwork, check the math,” says Barry. “If there is an extra that you want to buy, negotiate the price on that, and don’t fall for unnecessary extras.”
Like those nitrogen-filled tires. Consumer Reports has seen charges as high as $495, even though one company says dealers should charge only $8 to $12 for a fill. Consumer Reports recommends skipping nitrogen altogether, no matter the price.
And how about when you go pick up the car only to be told there was a mistake, the car just got sold, and the only one left is more expensive?
“It’s the classic bait and switch,” says Barry. “In some states it’s illegal, and it’s at the very least an unfair trade practice so this is your sign it is time to walk away.”
Not surprisingly, automobile dealer associations aren’t too happy about the proposed rules, saying they’re complicated, and could negatively impact their businesses.
But, if you feel you’ve been wronged by a dealership, Consumer Reports says complain, complain, complain. Go to the Federal Trade Commission, which already has the power to bring enforcement actions for deceptive practices, and share your experience.